The Rolex Datejust 1601 is about as mainstream as it gets when it comes to the famous brand. A fluted white gold bezel, 36mm case, Jubilee bracelet, and a Cyclops crystal check a lot of boxes when people envision a typical Rolex. The ubiquitousness alone probably kept me away from looking at these models, but one reached out and pulled at my heartstrings. Alas, it was not to be, but then it was…

It’s now bordering on nearly 18 months since my love affair with the vintage Datejust began. Funnily enough, I had completely disregarded these watches before, but I ultimately succumbed. My journey has been a bit wayward, though, with a focus on some fairly unique models. First, I chose a 16030 with a metallic black dial. A couple of months later, I hit upon a watch that still ranks among my favorites, a sublime blue 1600 with its glorious smooth bezel. Soon after, I stumbled onto a 16200 with an incredibly simple yet beautiful blue dial. Since that time, this trio of watches has managed to gang up on the rest of my collection and relegate the bulk of it to the safe deposit box. But where was an “up the middle” Rolex Datejust 1601? There was none…until recently.

Rolex Datejust 1601 Lavender 8

A day late and all the money in the world short

I spent this past Christmas in Florida with my family, and while I was there, I made good on a longstanding promise (or threat) to visit Eric Wind at his office in Palm Beach. Overall, the gathering was fantastic, and it was a timely reminder that there’s truly nothing quite like seeing watches in person. Before I arrived, though, I had done my homework. Days before, I had religiously cocked my head to the right 45 degrees to view Eric’s page of lovelies. After all, I wanted to go in with some sort of game plan on which watches to view. At the time, there was a stupidly beautiful Oysterquartz that I nearly bought, a lovely Tudor Oyster, and an honest Rolex Precision 6426 that did leave on my wrist. There was one watch, though, that I truly wanted to see, and, oddly, it wasn’t on display. An intriguing Rolex Datejust 1601 with a no-lume lavender dial had caught my eye, but where was it?

Well, the Rolex Datejust 1601 was there and Eric brought it out, but it contained an unfortunate caveat. The watch had been placed on hold the night before. That’s right; after several weeks of quietly sitting on Eric’s website, someone had expressed interest just before my visit. But how did the watch look? In a word, sublime.

Rolex Datejust 1601 Lavender 4

The Rolex Datejust 1601 in lavender

I feel like I’ve been scouring the internet with relative regularity for vintage Datejust models over the past two years. They’re such common watches that literally 99% can be swept aside before finding something remotely interesting. Then, those that are interesting usually suffer from some malady. Whether it’s a dial with all sorts of lume rot, missing lume, an overpolished case, or something else, the run-of-the-mill vintage Datejust is often a watch that was ridden hard and put away wet. Therefore, when a special one arises, it’s notable. The lavender Rolex Datejust 1601 before you is one of the special pieces, at least in my eyes. But as you’ll see, it wasn’t an immediate purchase.

“Lavender” is a relatively strong term for the dial in these images. In person, there’s no doubt that the Rolex Datejust 1601 in question has a grape-like hue, but the degree is highly dependent upon the lighting. At times, it takes on a very grayish, almost graphite tone, and at others, it’s positively purply. This color shifting wasn’t evident on the website, though, where the lights were bright and the dial looked pinkish. I had never really seen anything like it. I had read about so-called lavender dials, and I asked Eric about them. He posits that Rolex actually produced dials in this color and that they’re not, as many sites proclaim, gray dials that have changed over time.

Rolex Datejust 1601 Lavender 3

A no-lume dial

One piece of evidence that supports Eric’s view of lavender as an original color is the lack of tritium on this dial. Yes, this is a so-called no-lume dial, the style that our Thomas “From the Streets” van Straaten favors. In any case, lume had a way of eating into dials and/or aiding patina, so a “sterile” version like today’s piece has likely been preserved in its original state. At least that’s my theory… Regarding the no-lume dial itself, lore tells us that these were principally intended for the Japanese market due to the country’s ban on imported radioactive substances at the time. That also makes some sense, although I’d love to see some sort of official proof.

What I can tell you is that a no-lume-dial Rolex Datejust 1601 (or any Datejust, for that matter) was not a watch on my radar. I like lume, even if it’s long dead and gone on a vintage watch. Normally, a watch without it just feels too dressy and stodgy. However, there’s a nice benefit when lume isn’t present. The dial should never really age unless moisture enters the case. We may wonder what our vintage watches will look like in decades, but this piece should look the same. The other aspect that I enjoy on this watch, in particular, is that the lack of lume truly allows the dial to shine. There are fewer distractions, and the dial is simply more elemental.

Rolex Datejust 1601 Lavender 7

There’s more

For the same reason that a no-lume dial normally doesn’t appeal to me, the same can be said about a white gold fluted bezel. I know that the Rolex Datejust 1601 is the absolute expression of the lineup, but the fluted bezel also often seems finicky and, frankly, too “country club” for my tastes. Here again, though, in this example with that dial, polished hands, and indices, the bezel worked so well. The addition of the jewel-like Jubilee bracelet sealed the deal. Alas, though, there was no deal. I left Eric’s place, but I texted him later because the watch had left an impression. I casually mentioned that if the buyer canceled to please keep me in mind. Roughly a week later, the text came in, and it was Eric. Shortly thereafter, we reached a deal, but I would have to wait to retrieve it.

Rolex Datejust 1601 Lavender 12

As you can see, the day came, and the Rolex Datejust 1601 is now firmly in hand. When I first had the unopened package in front of me after nearly two months, I performed my normal ritual. I waited and thought about how I’d never be able to repeat the moment of seeing the watch for the first time again. Thankfully, upon opening it, the magic that I felt during my brief time with the watch returned. I sized the bracelet via the clasp and tried it on for size, and what a beauty! There are plenty of watches that one should try, but there’s something truly special about a vintage Rolex on a ref. 6251 folded Jubilee. The comfort is simply beyond compare. Another detail worth noting is the lovely case, which is in fantastic condition.

Rolex Datejust 1601 Lavender 1

Final thoughts

A watch like this Rolex Datejust 1601 has a lot going for it due to its case, bezel, and bracelet condition. Then, add the unusual and incredibly clean dial, and it’s a desirable package. The result is a watch that, at the time of writing, hasn’t left my wrist since the first day of ownership. I’ve certainly thought about pivoting to another watch, but that hasn’t translated into action. So, yes, I’m really enjoying this lavender-dialed oddity, and I’m more than happy that the original buyer canceled. Thanks for taking a look at this different variant of a very popular Rolex reference. Feel free to share your favorite older Datejust in the comments section below.